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Fundraising for the American exhibit suffers from a lack of interest and the recession. International relations could be affected.
By Don Lee January 17, 2009 Reporting from Shanghai --
With the Beijing Olympics over, China is counting down to its next big coming-out party: the Expo 2010 World's Fair in Shanghai.
But will the U.S. show up?
With construction deadlines approaching, organizers of the American exhibit are scrambling to come up with tens of millions of dollars from corporate sponsors for a national pavilion. The recession has only added to longer-running problems that could end up with the U.S. missing the Shanghai expo and, in the view of many, hurting bilateral relations and American commercial interests in the world's third-largest economy.
"I think it'd be tragic if the U.S. isn't represented in this expo," said Nick Winslow, a Pasadena theme park expert who, with Beijing lawyer Ellen Eliasoph, was selected by the State Department to develop the U.S. pavilion and show. The pair, former colleagues at Warner Bros., say they have until April to raise as much as $84 million that was originally estimated for the project.
"It's coming down to the wire," Winslow said.
He and Eliasoph have talked with the Walt Disney Co., PepsiCo and some 120 other parties, as well as wealthy Chinese Americans, but there's been no public commitment of funds except for $500,000 of seed money put up by Connecticut vitamin importer AnMar International.
Companies are hesitant to invest a lot for a building where their names and logos are to be presented subtly in the background rather than splashed out front.
What's more, the expo lacks the international appeal of the Olympics, and its allure has faded, especially in the United States. The expo (or world's fair) had its origins in mid-19th century Europe and for decades focused on trade, cultural exchanges and artistic and scientific innovations. In more recent years it has become more of a platform for so-called country branding, with national pavilions being the main attraction.
Winslow remembers going to his first world's fair as a teenager in Seattle in 1962 and being captivated by the Space Needle and the monorail. In 2000, the U.S. skipped the expo in Hanover, Germany, drawing criticism from organizers but hardly a peep back home.
Yet many regard the Shanghai expo as far more important than those in the recent past, as it's taking place in the commercial hub of the world's most populous and arguably most important emerging economy. Some 70 million visitors are expected during the May-to-October exhibition, nearly triple the attendance at Hanover. About 185 countries will probably participate, and some already have broken ground on their national pavilions.
Leading the way is France, which is investing 50 million euros (about $66 million) in its building, perhaps the largest planned for the fair.
"This is sort of a very important thing to France," said Franck Serrano, spokesman for the French company that's handling the pavilion. "And also it is in China, the new giant. That's why the scale of France's exhibition is unprecedented this time."
American officials are generally banned by law from using public money for an expo, so they have to rely on private sources. But bureaucratic missteps hurt the process: It wasn't until last April that the State Department gave the go-ahead to Winslow and Eliasoph to design the pavilion, develop a show for it and raise funds. By October, their nonprofit venture ran out of money and word was out that they were shelving the deal. (It's since been revived.) State Department representatives wouldn't comment about the expo, except to say that the U.S. intended to participate.
"It's a bizarre situation," said Alex Xu, a Los Angeles developer of Greentree Inn hotels in China. "We can't pay for a pavilion while we're spending billions and billions on the war on terror." Whatever Americans may know or feel about the expo, he added, "it's a good opportunity to showcase the great side of the U.S. . . . for millions of people to see and experience who we are."
Xu has a 178-room hotel in the Shanghai expo village but worries that even if the U.S. pavilion gets built, it won't be up to par because of time and money constraints.
Local government officials are anxious too, and have suggested they could even help with some of the construction of the U.S. building. Last week the Shanghai expo's deputy director, Hong Hao, told an American group that included potential sponsors that "especially when the U.S. pavilion project is faced with difficulty, we will remember any enterprise putting its shoulder to the wheel."
Shanghai officials long ago set aside prime space for the U.S. pavilion at the fairgrounds, near the banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai's Pudong District.
The U.S. building would be about 60 feet high, encompassing 60,000 square feet, with wings on each side, representing a bald eagle, and a roof garden in the center. Burbank-based BRC Imagination Arts, a specialist in museum and exhibit designs, was brought in to create a high-tech, interactive show centering on sports heroes.
"It's very Hollywood," said Eliasoph, who headed Warner Bros.' film efforts in China and now runs the Beijing office of the Washington law firm Covington & Burling.
Whether corporations will pony up is the big question. Two U.S. companies -- Coke and General Motors (with its Chinese partner, SAIC) -- are setting up their own pavilions at the expo, paying $50 million each to be corporate sponsors. McDonald's and Starbucks, familiar brands throughout China, figure to have a strong presence in the expo village.
Observers speculate that Disney may become a major backer. The entertainment giant is planning to build a Disneyland in Shanghai, and getting behind the expo would likely give it some cachet in negotiations with officials in Shanghai and at the central government. A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment.
Although a no-show by the U.S. wouldn't go down well in Beijing, it would really hurt America's image among the Chinese public, said Sidney Rittenberg, a prominent China consultant based in Washington state.
"Most will feel it's a deliberate humiliation," he said. "It's going to stir up a lot of bad feelings," including the possibility of boycotts of American goods.
Eliasoph certainly hopes it won't come down to that. By design, China's pavilion was placed at one end of the fairgrounds and the U.S. pavilion at the other.
"It looks like America and China are co-anchoring the world," she said. "It's really striking if you imagine if we're not there."firstname.lastname@example.org
Lu ce 23 juillet 2009 sur le net
Il aura donc fallu attendre le 11 juillet pour que les Etats-Unis confirment leur participation à l’Exposition universelle de Shanghai, exactement vingt-deux mois après que le premier pays étranger, la Suisse, ait signé son contrat de participation avec le Bureau de coordination de l’Expo 2010. La cérémonie de signature qui s’est tenue à Pudong le 11 juillet a mis fin au suspens amorcé en mars 2008, lorsque le Département d’Etat américain avait désigné une organisation à but non lucratif pour encadrer la participation des Etats-Unis à l’Expo alors que les fonds devaient être encore levés et que la Maison Blanche se réservait le droit d’entériner cette participation. Si la nomination le 1er juillet dernier de Jose Villarreal, un avocat texan originaire de San Antonio, en tant que commissaire général américain pour l'Exposition 2010, laissait présager de la confirmation de Washington, les organisateurs attendaient avec une impatience à peine déguisée cette décision officielle.
Des sponsors courtisés et toujours pas au complet
Pour rappel, la loi américaine ne permet pas d’engager des fonds fédéraux dans le cadre des expositions universelles. De toute évidence, la crise économique n’a pas facilité la recherche de sponsors pour couvrir les 61 millions de dollars nécessaires à la construction du pavillon. Lors de son discours du 11 juillet, Beatrice Camp, Consule générale des États-Unis à Shanghai, annonçait que la moitié de l’objectif de financement avait été atteint, ce grâce à la contribution de 8 sponsors: PepsiCo, 3M, Dell, General Electric, Yum, Cargill, Golden Eagle et USA-China Education, Science and Culture Association.
Le pavillon américain dans une « zone en or »
Le premier coup de pioche a été donné le 17 juillet, en présence de Beatrice Camp, Jose Villarreal, Gary Locke, secrétaire américain au Commerce, Yang Xiong, vice-maire de Shanghai, Ma Xiuhong, vice-ministre chinois du Commerce et Hong Hao, directeur du Bureau de coordination de l'exposition universelle de Shanghai. A cette occasion, le Commissaire général pour les Etats-Unis affirmait alors son optimisme quant au délai de construction du pavillon et à la collecte des fonds. Le pavillon américain devrait atteindre une superficie de 5600 m2, ce qui en ferait le plus grand pavillon étranger sur le site. Reste à noter qu’un emplacement de choix avait été réservé pour cet invité de marque puisque le pavillon américain se situera à l’extrémité ouest du site de Pudong, une « zone en or » selon les organisateurs, de par sa proximité avec l’une des entrées de l’Expo.
Les Etats-Unis sont le 240 ème pays (et organisations) à avoir officiellement confirmé leur participation à l’Expo 2010. En guise de comparaison, la dernière exposition universelle en date, organisée en 2005 à Aichi au Japon, avait accueilli 121 pays et 4 organisations internationales.
Maryline Fiaschi (www.lepetitjournal.com - Shanghai) édition du 23 juillet 2009
Hillary Clinton, secrétaire d'état américaine, est venue sur le chantier du pavillon des USA afin de plaider pour son financement.
Obama n'était pas là, viendra t'il dans 6 mois ?
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